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Push made for athletic trainers; Advisory group proposes one paid position for each county high school


An athletic advisory committee for high school sports plans to petition the Howard County school board for paid professional athletic trainers this week.

The committee proposes that one trainer be available for each of the 10 county high schools during practices and games to evaluate injuries and assist in rehabilitation and injury prevention for the county's 6,600 student athletes.

County schools have limited coverage by Kernan Sports Medicine on a voluntary basis, a three-year relationship that ends in May.

The Interscholastic Athletic Advisory Committee (IAAC), a 14-member group that assists County Coordinator of Athletics Don Disney, is seeking $10,000 per school to cover the cost.

The county school system already provides $38,710 for paramedics at boys football and lacrosse games. The committee wants all but $5,000 of that money, and an additional $66,290, to pay for trainers, who would replace the medics.

Trainers must pass rigorous oral and written exams and gain at least 800 hours of hands-on experience under a certified trainer before becoming certified.

Howard County and Baltimore City are the only two jurisdictions in the Baltimore metropolitan area that do not provide paid, certified trainers for their high school sports programs.

Among state jurisdictions employing paid trainers are Anne Arundel, Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Frederick, Montgomery and Cecil counties. Washington also uses paid trainers.

"We're not asking for this just because other counties have them or because it's inexpensive," said IAAC president Jerry Yetter. "We're asking because it's the right thing to do. It seems like such a basic issue, that you preach safety to the students, but then you don't have a professional there to help."

Yetter will present the IAAC case at the school board's Thursday meeting. Others are expected to testify in favor of trainers, too, said Disney.

The IAAC has gathered letters of support for its cause. One from Dr. Willa Brown, head of the Howard County Health Department and a member of the School Health Council, noted that two student-athletes required MedEvac services last fall. The need for trainers, she wrote, is urgent.

Dr. Karen Kingry, director of Howard County General Hospital Children's Care Center, wrote that the hospital's emergency room sees a high incidence of over-use and preseason injuries that trainers could have prevented.

An injury survey conducted by Disney among high school coaches in 1993 cited injury rates of 34 percent among boys soccer players, 27 percent among girls basketball players and 24 percent among girls soccer players.

The IAAC cites national statistics that 30 percent of the 7.5 million interscholastic athletes incur some form of time loss because of injury each year. Twenty-five percent of these result in a physician's visit, and two percent are major injuries precluding participation for three weeks or more.

"Trainers would take a lot of pressure off coaches liability-wise," Wilde Lake athletic director Carol Satterwhite said. "It would be a real good plus to our system."

The IAAC position paper also asserts that "the presence of certified athletic trainers substantially reduces the risk of legal liability to the school district that sometimes results from sports injuries."

The paper notes that in 1998, the American Medical Association adopted a policy calling for certified athletic trainers in all high school programs.

Pub Date: 1/31/99

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